I am afraid of a lot of things.
I had a really hard time with the chapter I read in The Good and Beautiful God this week. It was about how God is generous, and that he puts no expectation of "earning" on us. Instead, everything he gives us he gives out of grace and abundance with no expectations because he delights in us. My first reaction was that this couldn't true. I especially struggled with the idea that God wants me to delight in him, that he is not disappointed in me, and that he does not have a list of things he wants me to do. James Bryan Smith writes, “We live in a world where people demand, oppress, wound, and condemn. In our world we earn what we get. So we project that onto God. It is easy to conceive of a demanding, oppressive, condemning, wounding god who must be appeased. The God Jesus knows is utterly generous” (84). Honestly, I see God as demanding. He is calling me to do these things and to live this way, and he is disappointed because I am not living up to his expectations. He wants to give me these things or bless me in these ways but he can’t because I’m not doing this and so I am missing out. I should feel guilty because I am not devoting “X” amount of time or energy right now to my direct ministry and instead I’m doing other things (such as my internship, spending time with friends, working on my thesis).
Really, I struggle with this in most relationships. I constantly feel that others have expectations of me that I cannot fulfill and thus they are disappointed in me. For many people, that doesn’t matter too much because I’m okay with them not approving of me. But for those closest to me, the painful possibility that they are disappointed in me keeps me from letting them too close at all. I don’t want people to depend on me because I will let them down. People with high expectations of me scare me because I may not meet those expectations. I’d rather keep people at arms’ length rather than risk disappointing them.
This chapter also raised another huge fear for me when talked about loving God. Smith writes, “If we asked Jesus, What does God want from me? I believe he would answer, God wants you to know and to love him.” But what does it mean to love God? This chapter talked about how we love God through delighting in him, through knowing his joy and his character. But for me, love has always been much more about surrender, about giving up, about sacrifice. Loving God means I am willing to give up my life- all my plans, all my desires, all my hopes, all my goals and dreams- and do what he wants me to do. And I do want to love God and I try to surrender all my plans. But I am absolutely terrified that God is going to call me to a life that makes me absolutely miserable. He is going to ask me to do things that I hate doing. He will take away the things that I love most, the things I am passionate about. He’ll call me away from the research and the analysis and the ethnic conflict and the things that I’m good at and that get me excited and passionate and ask me to do something that I don’t want to do. Loving Him will mean quitting my internship (which I love) and spending less time on my thesis or seeing my friends less. Honestly, I think I'm terrified that God wants me to be someone that I'm pretty sure I'm not. I'm afraid that God only calls women to be stay-at-home moms or only calls people into direct missionary work (instead of somewhere like the public sector).
Now, I know in my head that these are lies. God does call women to things beyond child-rearing and to careers beyond direct mission work. But my heart isn't so sure. In the last week, I’ve rediscovered many of the fears and insecurities I had hidden so well from myself. I’m terrified of really giving my life over to God because I’m afraid he’s going to make me do things I don’t want to do. I’m afraid that God is disappointed in me because I’m not living up to his expectations. I’m afraid that with whatever I decide about my future I’m going to be disappointing a whole host of people. I’m afraid of a lot of things.
But I think that this it is good that I've uncovered all of these fears. It's better than hiding them. I don’t really know the answer to all this outside of this belief, this hope, that God really is good, and really does love me, so much of this fear is unfounded. 1 John 4:18 talks about how perfect love casts out fear. I can't truly say now that I can love God without fear. But I hope to learn to.
Photo taken by Kara Haberstock, July 2010, all rights reservedPin It